Coast Guard Auxiliary rescues endangered, cold-stunned turtles from Cape Cod shores

A recently rescued Kemp's ridley turtle swims in a tank before being taken out and flown to Florida Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. This turtle, along with 24 others, is being transported by the Coast Guard Auxiliary after they became stuck in the arm of Cape Cod on their way back down to warmer waters for the winter. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

A recently rescued Kemp’s ridley turtle swims in a tank before being taken out and flown to Florida Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

Boston – Kemp’s Ridley turtles come up to northeast waters in summer and become trapped in the elbow of the Cape’s arm as water cools in the fall. These cold-blooded reptiles experience a hypothermic reaction to the cold temperatures with slowed breathing and heart rates, lethargy, thinning, and oftentimes pneumonia.

Without intervention many of these rare turtles would die.

“It is extremely helpful to the turtle population as well as the rehabilitation organizations trying to manage this critical event,” said Kate Sampson a sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. “Larger turtles are stranding now and creating a crisis of space at the New England Aquarium.”

A Coast Guard Auxiliary flight crew from the 1st District Southern Region, flying out of Marshfield Airport, plan to fly about 25 of the turtles to Orlando, Florida, where they can be released into warmer water.

During transport, the turtles will be loaded into the airplane in special boxes with insulation to keep them warm. While in flight the turtles have to be kept between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re honored to work with our partners at NOAA and the New England Aquarium to ensure these turtles arrive safely in Florida,” said Coast Guard Auxiliary pilot Steve Trupkin.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the voluntary, un-paid, uniformed component of the Coast Guard. Congress established the Auxiliary June 23, 1939. The Auxiliary exists to support all Coast Guard missions except roles that require direct law enforcement or military engagement. As of 2015, there were approximately 32,000 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Collectively, the Auxiliary contributes more than 4.5 million hours of service each year and complete nearly 500,000 missions in service to support the Coast Guard. Every year, Auxiliarists help save approximately 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, conduct more than 150,000 safety examinations of recreational vessels, and provide boater safety instruction to more than 500,000 students. In total, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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